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Posts for May, 2010

African Newspaper Roundup: Homosexuality Not A Western Import, and Other “Horrors and Revulsions”

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2010

When straight African writers offer opinions that homosexuality should not be harshly condemned, they are often constrained to politely concede the widespread condemnation of LGBT people throughout Africa. And part of the typical formula is to register their own personal disgust over the idea of gay sex. Janet Otieno, writing for the online Africa Review out of Kenya avoids the latter part of the formula and counters the oft-told argument that homosexuality is an un-African western import. Not true, she says:

Further evidence for the existence of homosexuality is that pre-colonial African ethnic groups ascribed tribal classifications to gay people.

Certain tribes in pre-colonial Burkina Faso and South Africa regarded lesbians as astrologers and traditional healers, while a number of tribal groups in Cameroon and Gabon believed homosexuality had a medicinal effect.

In pre-colonial Benin, homosexuality was viewed as a boyhood phase that males passed through and eventually grew out of according to Zimbabwean Standard newspaper.

The Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and his lover Smenkhkare were also documented as male couple in history. Their homosexuality does not seem to have bothered Akhenaten’s contemporaries, but his challenge to the clergy brought his downfall.

She then goes briefly goes into the nature-nurture debate, and in her discussion of the importance of sex education in the home, it’s hard to know where she stands on that issue — or for homosexuality in general, although the calm tone of the article carefully hints at her tacit support for LGBT people. That tacit support becomes overt in her penultimate paragraph:

Such individual formation within the family means that sex education is indistinguishable from religious and moral development in other virtues such as temperance, fortitude, and prudence.

Africans should therefore not afford themselves the luxury of being hateful and intolerant to this particular group.

Whether Africa will face up the reality and accept homosexuals, or uphold its traditional values, remains to be seen as the debate rages on.

This piece contrasts very sharply from another op-ed that ran in Kenya’s Daily Nation today with the title, “Homosexuality is an abomination in the sight of God and man.” Three guesses on which side of the fence Dorothy Kweyu sits on. But what makes this piece interesting is that Kweyu reveals that as the Daily Nation’s Revise Editor, she contributed to a relatively positive article by Emeka-Mayaka Gekara which ran last week about LGBT Christians in Kenya who worship privately at a Nairobi branch of the Metropolitan Community Church.

I guess that article left both of them exposed to suspicions that they both endorsed LGBT equality, even though Kweyu’s name is not mentioned in the article. But to settle any confusion the mere presence of the report may have raised, Kweyu saw a burning need to set the record straight:

It occurred to me that as a mother and a Christian, I would be failing in my responsibilities, albeit as a layperson, if I did not express the utter horror and revulsion that was mine at reading such brazen affirmation of an evil. I can, therefore, confirm that my revision task was as “unenviable” as was the writer’s — something you do because you have no option; it’s all in a day’s work.